The summer holidays are upon us, in a lomo-framed haze of ice creams, seaside visits and long summer nights. That is, unless you are a freelance mum, in which case it can be 6 weeks of crying into your to doi list during snatched moments at the computer, coffee in one hand and a hot, tired child in the other as you fall over a stash of play dough encrusted lego. Or is it just me?
Freelance working mums have a niche set of circumstances – freelance twin mums with chronic illnesses are even MORE niche, but it doesn’t stop us being badass in business – and the summer hols can be a trying time. Being self employed has many, MANY benefits; I am 8 years in and still wouldn’t change it for the world, but adding motherhood into the mix is a wonderful blessing with extra pressures. Your work may have more flexibility than a 9 to 5, but there are still usually clients, deadlines and expectations that don’t always comply with family life, least of all during a stretch of holidays that can be trying for the purse strings.
I am a big advocate of designing your career to fit your life, and I am also a portfolio career cheerleader, and for me, it’s a constant journey. But, whichever way you slice it, the summer hols for a freelance mum can be a chunk out of your income, energy and sanity.
So, what can you do to minimise the disruption and lessen the need for Valium? ( I jest, of course)….
1. Plan in advance
Now this may sounds obvious, but I know I wasn’t the only one this year who only realised it was the end of term a week before we talked to nursery about hours, did the sums, and felt sorry for our bank manager. To be fair, ours are pre-schoolers so term dates aren’t tattooed onto my forehead yet, in my defence, but I should have been more on the ball. Look at when the holidays are going to rock up, and engrave them on your heart, iCal, notebook, inner thighs, whatever works for you. Find out about holiday clubs, talk to friends and family about childcare help if needed, and plan some reduced hours for your business if you need it.
2. Tell your clients
I don’t know about you, but going on holiday is the best thing for business. Suddenly everyone needs work doing, NOW, and sales go up. So, expect the same of summer holidays, but we can at least attempt to lessen the flow by pre-warning clients that you may be on reduced hours (if that is how you choose to work it).
3. Use your network or be ok saying no
Sometimes you really do just need to say no, and that is ok. Honestly. But, if you would like to offer your clients an alternative you could buddy up with some trusted colleagues and fellow freelancers who may be able to help them out; this kind of arrangement can be risky in terms of client management, so consider it carefully, but it can be a lifesaver. Alternatively, if you are happy to, outsource the work if you are overloaded and manage it yourself if your nature of business allows, but I cannot stress enough that you need to have A LOT of trust in your co-workers. Big up to my wonderful Cherry Sorbet team at this point, who have kept my business running through maternity leave, PND, endometriosis and CFS episodes, and god only knows what else.
4. Make your smart phone your BFF
This is something I am big on in the #dexdivafwm course, as smart phones can save your freelance arse! Now look, I know in an ideal work we would be 100% in the moment all the time, but sometimes you need to have systems in place to avoid a potential disaster, so setting up a tech workflow is paramount. Without my smartphone, part time flexible working would be so, SO much more difficult. I have an iPhone but I know that Androids are also fantastic for having a large number of apps to help your mobile workflow. In brief, my lifesaving apps are Sparrow, Away Find, Dropbox, Google Drive, Skype Wifi, Boomerang, Drafts for iPad, Evernote and Buffer, all of which I describe in more detail on the course, but suffice to say the combination has helped me so, so much.
5. Set boundaries
This is something I talk about on the Freelance Working Mum e-course, and it is so important, maybe more so, during the hols. Try to jot down what is important to you and what you are committed to, like a mini manifesto. If, as part of your manifesto you are committed to time with your children, gardening, fitness, relaxation – hey, maybe even your partner – then we need to set yourself some working boundaries.Maybe you want to work 10-3 then 7-10 3 days a week; maybe you want to work 9-5 then switch off for the evening, or maybe you work 4 days a week with one completely offline for a digital detox.Check your goals against your manifesto and begin to map out your week, with childcare and working hours accounted for where possible. It may sounds military but having a structure may just help, so you can communicate with your clients when you are available, and for you to allow yourself to switch off – AND MAKE SURE YOU DO!
6. Go easy on yourself with expectations
This can be a toughie. It can be easy to let guilt rule, to feel torn between motherhood and work maybe even more so during the holidays. But, be kind to yourself, be proud of all your are doing to further yourself, provide for your family and to set them a work ethic example. Don’t beat yourself up that the house is a bit messy, that you haven’t pre-made all the meals this week or that your ironing pile is gargantuan. Most of all, don’t compare yourself to others, even if they pass judgement on you. Everyone is doing their own thing, their way, and everyone’s lives are different. Just do all your can, your way, and be proud of yourself. Staple some affirmations to your forehead if it helps.
7. Share the load
If you have friends in the same situation, maybe consider a childcare swap from time to time to help each other out. See if you can share the holiday time off load with your partner, and if you are lucky enough to have famiy around that want to and are able to help, now is the time to say yes to that offer!
8. Know it wont last forever
I can be terrible at seeing the bigger picture, so don’t listen to me…but this won’t last forever. These summer holiday weeks mean an uber messy house, more chaos than normal, and probably some curve balls. Try to not take on too much; getting up at 5 and going to bed at midnight ain’t pretty, and it leads to burnout which is no-one’s friend. Take it from one who knows.
9. Learn for next time
Whatever happens this summer, there will be bits that work and bits that went plain tits up. Learn from them, add them to the mix for next year, and move on. No tears, and don’t let stress beat you.
10. Enjoy it
Last, but by no means least, ENJOY the summer holidays! They are magical times, your kids want you to have fun and you deserve some fun, so get out there, paddle in the sea, get messy in the sand, embrace your inner child, have picnics at the park, and have fun. That’s an order.
I asked my lovely Twitter followers how they cope as freelance working mums in the holidays, and this is what they said:
Thanks to my lovely Twitter friends for their input. I would love to hear yours, too! How do you manage in the hols? Do you do things differently to my suggestions above? I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
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P.P.S Thanks to my lovely partner Miles for supporting and encouraging me and my career throughout illness, motherhood, many highs and many lows. Thanks too for the best children in the whole world, my gorgeous Mini Divas.